PRIME Minister David Cameron has today said the British people will “have their say” on Europe as he pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives manage to win the next general election.
The much-awaited speech details a referendum that will give the British electorate a “very simple choice” which would be to either accept the result of Cameron’s renegotiating talks with the EU or to leave altogether. The speech itself has been long coming, the contents of which will, no doubt, redefine the British political landscape during the years ahead. Cameron pledged to hold the referendum early on in the next parliament – likely to be mid 2016 – if the Conservatives manage to win an outright majority at the next general election two and a bit years from now.
In what can be viewed as proverbial meat-throwing to noisy backbenchers and the inflated influence of UKIP, Cameron delivered the pledge at a time of strategic importance, the full swing of which carrying the necessary power to knock Nigel Farage’s party on to the ropes, and hopefully flat-out on the canvas. Bitter in-fighting between the socially conservative dinosaur element and the libertarian inclinations of the more youthful party members has recently embroiled UKIP in a mud-slinging skirmish that does little for their image despite the careful media grooming by Nigel Farage. The anchors have been thrown overboard, along with some key members, bringing their recent surge to prominence to an abrupt halt. The reasons behind such an acceleration were largely fuelled by disgruntled and disaffected old Tories whose political anathema is embodied by the EU; Cameron’s pledge will go some way to smoothing Tory feathers whilst ruffling those of UKIP. If the Tories wish to regain ground then popping the UKIP bubble is an essential modus operandi.
Cross-party reaction allowed those in Opposition to brand Cameron as “weak” and apparently “driven by party interest” according to Ed Miliband. In what I’d define as a bizarre statement from the Labour leader who lambasted his opposite for serving the interests of his party, which, I thought, was the whole point of being party leader.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also waded into the debate claiming that Cameron’s move would cause “years of uncertainty” affecting growth and jobs and was “not in the national interest”. Recent polls conducted will explain why Nick Clegg’s statement is also perplexing; over half of the British people want a say on our relationship with the EU.
Nigel Farage attacked the pledge, branding it “weak and old-fashioned”, the latter term also describing certain elements of his party.
Cameron furthered by describing the decision to be the UK’s “destiny”, whilst also underlining his support for a continued relationship with the EU following a redefinition of the relationship’s key principles. Cameron’s stance on the European Question has never lacked transparency, during recent times at least, and little changed during today’s speech. The prime minister said he would campaign with his “heart and soul” for Britain to stay within the EU and reminded of “a commitment to friendship and a resolve to never revisit that dark past” in reference to a war-ravaged continent some seventy years ago. Alluding to the peloton of Tiger economies racing ahead from the East, Cameron urged EU leaders to change in order “to deliver prosperity and to retain the support of its peoples” within the prospect of a pared-down, decorticated European Union.
The Prime Minister has been shouting down referendum calls for some time. The recalcitrant eurosceptic arm of the Tory party has been manoeuvring for a clear option on the European Question in tireless fashion before, during, and after the Eurozone’s problems began to emerge. The numerous, and influential Eurosceptics within the party should be appeased, and those who were possibly considering Farage’s open invitation to jump ship will also find something to satisfy and calm their itchy feet. There will also be a few doubters. Naturally.
Cameron’s personal commitment to a continued relationship with the EU is clear cut; a renegotiation that peels down Britain’s involvement within the EU is the preferred option. What remains opaque is the terms of this redefining agenda. The recent report published by Tory group, Fresh Start, calls for a major claw back of EU powers back to London with 11 key proposals at its core. Whether Cameron fights for a repatriation of powers with this report, signed by 100 MPs, as a guideline, only time will tell.
What we can take from today’s speech is clear: the Tories are shaping up, leaning out, and shedding the fluffy modernisation flab that muddied bright blue waters and propped up Labour to poll ratings they have no right to claim. Combine this with the job figures released today and we can safely assure that Cameron’s smuggest face will be on display for the foreseeable.